Global Warming May Be Pulling Out Protein and Vitamins From Your Rice

A new study has warned that rising levels of carbon dioxide (Co2) in the atmosphere may reduce essential nutrients in the rice.

"There's been studies over the past hundred years for the importance of these B vitamins", Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the authors of the study.

Populations in countries with both the highest rice consumption and lowest gross domestic product may experience more malnutrition as the nutritional value of low-cost staple foods like rice declines.

Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions threaten to make rice less nutritious, scientists said in a study released Wednesday, raising a worrying possibility about the staple food item for billions of humans.

"This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century", says Kazuhiko Kobayashi, a co-author of the study from the University of Tokyo, in a press release.

It was observed that on average, protein content fell 10.3%, iron dropped eight percent, while the zinc content was reduced by 5.1%, compared to rice grown today under current Carbon dioxide conditions. "When you look at a country like Bangladesh, three out of every four calories comes from rice".

The new study evaluated 18 types of commonly grown rice to see impact of the levels of carbon dioxide.

So we're not just changing the climate by burning fossil fuels, we're also changing the food we eat, according to a study in Science Advances.

Rice within the octagon in this field is part of an experiment started by a University of Tokyo professor and created to grow rice under different atmospheric conditions.

Rice grown in an environment with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide has fewer nutrients, according to research started by the University of Tokyo.

The findings revealed that Vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels decreased by 17.1%; average Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) by 16.6%; average Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) by 12.7%; and average Vitamin B9 (folate) by 30.3%. "Folate [vitamin B9] declines across the nine rice varieties ranged from 10 percent to 45 percent".

Some possibilities include that the Carbon dioxide takes the place of other nutrients, diminishing the need for them, or that as crops produce more grains the nutrients are in turn diluted, or the fact that Carbon dioxide causes the plant's stomates, pores in plant leaves, to close, changing the water flow and potentially affecting how water-soluble nutrients react. There has already been concern about the impact of higher levels of carbon dioxide on protein in potatoes, maize and other cereals. That knowledge gives researchers an opportunity, given enough funding, to breed climate change-resistant strains of rice.

  • Joe Gonzales